Thursday, January 19, 2012

The torch has passed to a new generation

The nation’s Occupy movement has picked up the torch that Martin Luther King Jr. once carried to light the path to justice. That was the theme at the King birthday rally this week at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Milwaukee.

"The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow,” said George Martin, a grizzled Milwaukee peace activist who noted that King was focusing on that gap near the end of his life. “The United States has become the wealthiest Third World country on Earth."

Martin pointed out that the Occupy movement was trying to narrow the wide gap between the top one per cent of personal income in America and the bottom 99%.

Peggy Rozga saw parallels between the youthful Occupy movement in Milwaukee and the city’s NAACP Youth Council, which led a marathon series of open housing marches and other demonstrations in the 1960s. "Milwaukee has a history of young people standing up for justice," said Rozga, a poet and writer and widow of Father James Groppi, the civil rights leader who was adviser to the Youth Council.

Echoing that sentiment, Danielle Meyer of Occupy Milwaukee said of the struggles waged by King and Groppi, “Their movement is our movement.”

Besides King, the rally honored Groppi and Father Matthew Gottschalk, former pastor at St. Francis. The rally’s sponsor was the Milwaukee Justice Coalition.

Meyer accused Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of giving tax breaks to millionaires while cutting BaderCare, Wisconsin’s health care program for poor people.. Many on Wall Street own several properties while Milwaukeeans lose their homes, she said. The one per cent caused the current economic crisis, she added, but the 99% pay the price.

Angela Walker, legislative director of Local 998 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, noted that, when he was a bus driver, Groppi was president of the union. She said the battleground was no longer Selma or Montgomery. Rather, it was in places like the state capitol, where public schools are defunded and union rights are stripped away.

Khalil Coleman, of the Occupy the Hood movement, called on Milwaukeeans to stand up for justice with action, not just words.

Chance Zombor, of Decolonize the Barrio, warned that the gains of the civil rights movement “are being pulled out from under us.” There is more war and more economic injustice, he said, and even President Obama is a culprit with his stepped up deportations and measures curtailing civil liberties.

Many at the rally marched four blocks from the church at 1927 N. 4th St. to the Martin Luther King statue at Walnut St. and Martin Luther King Dr., where members of the crowd spoke at an open microphone and elaborated on the themes voiced at the church.

Note: The graininess of the photos inside the church is due to technical difficulties. After much debate with myself, I decided that they were worth posting anyway.

1 comment:

  1. The photos speak volumes. I agree with your decision to post them. I presume the stalwarts, Vel Phillips, Doc Finlayson and Reuben Harpole chose not to speak. They deserve to be heard. And yes, it is a wonderful new day of youth involvement. The combination of their strength and energy and the wisdom of the elders is a recipe for power and progress.